ATLANTA – Sparked by a 21-7 second half run, No. 9 Duke beat No. 3 Kentucky 75-68 on Tuesday night in the nightcap of the Champions Classic.
Seth Curry led the way for the Blue Devils with 23 points, while Mason Plumlee added 18 points, 16 of which came in the first half. Freshman wing Rasheed Sulaimon added ten points, five boards and five assists without committing a turnover, but he shot just 3-13 from the field. Two of those three field goals were threes that came during Duke’s game-changing run.
Kentucky made a push down the stretch, getting stops on five straight possessions to cut the lead to 64-61 with the ball. But Julius Mays missed a three that would have tied the game, and Curry knocked down a pair of free throws at the other end to push the lead back to five. The Wildcats never seriously threatened again.
This was an impressive win for Duke.
Regardless of how young Kentucky is, the Blue Devils put an impressive run on Kentucky in the second half, and they did much of it with their star center and potential lottery pick, Plumlee, sitting on the bench in foul trouble. Sulaimon hit some big shots on a night he wasn’t shooting all that well and sophomore point guard Quinn Cook made enough promising plays that those two look like they are the answer to Duke’s penetrating guards problem.
But the bottom line is that Kentucky is a different team without Ryan Harrow. As talented as Archie Goodwin is — and believe me, he’s legit — he’s not a point guard. Duke’s second half run was as much about Kentucky’s inability to get a good look at the basket for an extended second half stretch as anything.
UK is far from a finished product. They’ll get better as the season progresses, but this loss shows you that they do need to have their point guard on the roster.
Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.
UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.
Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.
All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.
The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.
No. 23 USC missed a golden opportunity to make up a game in the Pac-12 standings on Friday night.
No. 11 Oregon lost to Colorado on Thursday night, dropping back into a tie for first place in the league with the Trojans, a game ahead of No. 17 Arizona. But USC fell at Arizona State, 74-67, keeping them a game off of the pace that the Ducks have set.
The loss is even more painful when you consider that, on Sunday, the Trojans will be making the trip to Tucson to take on Arizona. The Wildcats are not what we have become accustomed to seeing under Sean Miller, but they are still a top 25 team and the McKale Center is still one of the toughest places in the country to get a win.
Thanks to Friday’s loss, instead of entering McKale with an outside chance of taking over sole possession of first place in the league, USC will have top hope they don’t fall two games off the pace.
As far as the game itself was concerned, USC committed 17 turnovers, shot 2-for-11 from three and gave up 16 offensive rebounds to Arizona State. That’s how you lose a game where you shoot better than 51 percent from the floor. USC was just never able to consistently get out into transition, and that caused them to struggle executing in the half court.
Nikola Jovanovic led the way with 25 points and 15 boards for USC.
Tra Holder’s 20 points made the difference for Arizona State, who kept themselves within striking distance of an at-large bid with the win.